Principal Profiles - Douglas County School District (2024)

Meet Dr. Jean Taylor, the New Mountain View Elementary Principal

As public educators, we have the beautiful opportunity to provide universal access to education, help students fulfill their potential, and prepare for the future. You never know what each year will bring, but one can count on the excitement of learning. Being a public educator is an honor and a huge responsibility.

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Who or what inspired you to enter the field of education?
My grandmother and father inspired me to become an educator. My grandmother was a teacher for almost 50 years and my father was a university professor. I learned at a young age how magical the world of education could be, how critical it was to give back to others, and that relationships were everything.

Did you follow a traditional or unconventional path to become a principal?
I never thought of being a principal, until a previous mentor and boss gave me opportunities in leadership. I loved being a classroom teacher with the daily interactions I had with my students and I felt fulfilled. It wasn’t until I experienced a new passion, as I worked side-by-side coaching other teachers, that I realized my impact could look different. Teaching is a hard job, but one of the best professions in the world. We know that the direct link to student success is teacher success. Through this leadership position, I’m enabled to find ways to bolster the success of both.

If you could write a book about your career path, what would you title it and why?
Ripple Effect. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to be in education for three decades now. During this time, I have held various roles including classroom teacher, instructional coach, and GT facilitator, all while raising four amazing children, and the learning has never stopped. When I look back at my career, I know that I have been presented with a gift to last a lifetime and have been touched by so many lives. I think of a stone dropping in the middle of a pond, and watching the ripple effect. When I think of my career, I like to think that I have had a positive influence on the lives of so many.

What is a work-related accomplishment that you are the most proud of?
I am proud that, together with Northeast Elementary, we are working to foster a professional learning community across our two schools. Vertical alignment has been a dream of mine for years. We are aligning our goals and this is exciting work. Our staff is getting to know each other and building relationships. These collaborative conversations and data dialogue will positively impact student achievement, and I can’t wait to see where this will lead.

How do you relax and regroup after a stressful day?
After I touch base with my husband and children, I head out to my horse. I’ve found that time with her lets me unwind and is settling. No matter how busy my day has been, I can relax just by connecting with her.

What do you like most about working in public education?
As public educators, we have the beautiful opportunity to provide universal access to education, help students fulfill their potential, and prepare for the future. You never know what each year will bring, but one can count on the excitement of learning. Being a public educator is an honor and a huge responsibility.

What is your favorite way to show staff appreciation?
I believe that I show my staff appreciation best by being present through listening, problem-solving, and innovating with them. It is important for me that my staff know that they are cared for and that we are stronger together.

What is your favorite way to energize yourself at work?
Whenever I feel that I need a quick pick-me-up, I head straight into the classroom, the playground, or the lunchroom. In no time, the students engage me in conversation, laughter, and learning.

What do you like to do outside of work?
When I’m not working, you can find me outdoors walking, with my animals, trying new recipes, traveling, and spending time with my family.

Jason Jacob, Legend High School

Turns out that spending time around kids is great preparation for leading a building of more than 2,200 teenagers. Legend High School Principal Jason Jacob said working at different sports camps during his youth and teenage years got him interested in working with kids. And as a former college athlete, he also fell in love with coaching kids. He attended the University of Northern Colorado which also drew him towards education due to the university’s teaching college.

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Turns out that spending time around kids is great preparation for leading a building of more than 2,200 teenagers. Legend High School Principal Jason Jacob said working at different sports camps during his youth and teenage years got him interested in working with kids. And as a former college athlete, he also fell in love with coaching kids. He attended the University of Northern Colorado which also drew him towards education due to the university’s teaching college.

Jason took a traditional path to becoming a principal. He taught science, primarily biology anatomy, and physiology, at Chaparral High School for nine years and was also the head boys basketball coach. He started his administrative career at Chaparral where he was a dean for a year and an assistant principal. He then had the opportunity to open Legend High School sixteen years ago as an assistant principal. Jason is currently entering his 10th year as the principal at Legend High.

Reflecting on his career, Jason said he’s most proud of opening Legend and helping shape the school that it has become by providing incredible opportunities for students and families.

“I like the opportunity to be part of so many different peoples' lives,” he said. “This includes students, staff and parents. Everyone has a story and a path that they take and I get to be part of that journey and hopefully help guide and support. I love helping others get where they want to be!”

Getting into classrooms and seeing teachers in action with students energizes him throughout the day. Jason shows staff appreciation by honoring a staff member of the week and giving them a front-row parking spot. He also recognizes staff birthdays with a card and staff apparel and plans lots of different activities during staff appreciation week with food and gift items.

Jason's daily routine includes working out early in the morning to combat stress.“If the weather is good, I like to take my dog on walks with my wife and talk about her day to take my mind off of mine,” he said.

Outside of work, you can find Jason exercising, hiking, cooking, pairing food with wine, and spending time with his wife and twin boys!

Mandy Hill, Sage Canyon Elementary

You might say teaching has been a way of life for Mandy Hill, whose mother was a teacher in Aurora Public Schools for 25 years. “I would help her grade papers and go with her to work sometimes,” said Mandy. “She has always been my hero.”

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You might say teaching has been a way of life for Mandy Hill, whose mother was a teacher in Aurora Public Schools for 25 years.

“I would help her grade papers and go with her to work sometimes,” said Mandy. “She has always been my hero.”

Mandy went to school to become a teacher, and funny enough she worked her way through college in the school system as an educational assistant, a health assistant, and a school secretary. She had multiple jobs in education even before she earned her teaching degree!

Mandy taught fourth- and fifth grades at Rock Ridge Elementary and was a driver’s education instructor. Outside of education, she worked in retail and the restaurant business.

One of Mandy’s proudest accomplishments is opening Sage Canyon as a member of the planning team.

“Seeing our dreams and vision come to fruition every day for students and teachers gives me great satisfaction,” she said. “The excitement every morning as kids walk through the door is one of the best parts about working in public education. There isn’t a better way to start a day!”

Mandy is also very proud of developing one of the first pilot programs for autism in the district.

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Mandy gives handwritten notes of thanks, appreciation, and love to let her staff know how much they are appreciated. Spending time with students, going to recess, and finding the humor in everything helps keep Mandy energized at work.

“I’m a recent cancer survivor and this has helped me remember what is truly important, where I need to focus my energy, and how important it is to unplug from work,” she said. “I will never take a day for granted so when I get to do fun things like get in a dunk tank during our fun run or spend time with a student who just needs extra support that day, I realize that those moments all build together to create an amazing life.”

Walking her dog, reading, and binging TV is how Mandy likes to relax at the end of the day. You may also find her spending time with her family, traveling, watching movies, hiking, or just hanging out. She loves to cook and tries to emulate her grandma who used food to convey love and care.

“My son Luke is a sophom*ore at Western Colorado University and plays football so we spend lots of time going to his games on Saturdays and cheering on the Chiefs on Sundays! My daughter Maddie is a senior in high school so we are trying to get as much family time as possible! My husband, Gene, is a teacher at Mountain Ridge Middle School and coaches football for Mountain Vista High School,” she said.

Meet Heritage Elementary Principal Katie Lawson

Katie Lawson entered education because she wanted to make a difference and that’s exactly what she is doing at Heritage Elementary. She supports the social/emotional well-being of her staff and students and prioritizes self-care and healthy boundaries.

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Katie Lawson entered education because she wanted to make a difference and that’s exactly what she is doing at Heritage Elementary. She supports the social/emotional well-being of her staff and students and prioritizes self-care and healthy boundaries.

Katie followed a traditional path to becoming a principal. Her educational experience includes being a second- and third-grade teacher, a combo teacher of high achieving and gifted students, a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS)/Intervention Strategist, a gifted/talented coordinator, a student assessment coordinator, a new teacher mentor, and an assistant principal.

“I have worked with several center-based special education programs and have worked with a wide variety of behavioral challenges. I've taught in Rapid City, South Dakota, and I was an assistant principal at Castle Rock Elementary and Sand Creek Elementary,” she said.

Katie is most proud of being chosen to serve as principal at Heritage Elementary!

“I love this community and the wonderful support of our families. I'm so proud of this amazing staff and how they prioritize student success in all areas,” she said.

Spending time with her husband, Adam, and their two high school daughters is one of the ways that Katie relaxes and regroups at the end of the day. She said that those who work in education are always surrounded by people with huge hearts.

Elementary school teachers work harder than anyone I know and their ‘why’ is always centered around kids. This job is underpaid and undervalued - and teachers continue to show up because they want to make a difference. They are world changers!” she said.

They say you can get to a person’s heart through their stomach. Katie’s favorite way to show staff appreciation is to feed them!

“I have tasked the PTO with stocking our fridge and snack bins every month for staff. Teachers love easy-to-grab-and-go foods like cheese sticks and food bars. In addition, every week in August and September, a different team has received a hand-delivered Chick-fil-A meal on me!”

Taking walks around the building and checking in with students and staff keeps Katie energized at work. In her free time, Katie enjoys riding an electric bike and paddle boarding at Lake Dillon.

Sagewood Middle School Principal Ben D’Ardenne

Before being named principal of Sagewood, Ben served as an assistant principal and athletic director, teacher, and coach. Ben said one of the best things about working in public education is that he gets to serve all kids.

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Ben D’Ardenne’s experience as a camp counselor influenced his decision to become a teacher and ultimately, an administrator.

“During college, I was a summer camp counselor for middle school kids. After graduating college I entered the business world; however, I quickly realized I wanted to return to working with kids! A friend I'd worked with who had started teaching and coaching middle school students convinced me to do the same,” said Ben.

“I knew I wanted to be a principal in my first year as a teacher. I was working at an inner-city school in Waco, TX where there were a lot of challenges. I started my master's program after that first year and became an administrator after five years of teaching.”

Before being named principal of Sagewood, Ben served as an assistant principal and athletic director, teacher, and coach. Ben said one of the best things about working in public education is that he gets to serve all kids.

“I love working with middle school students because this is such a pivotal time in their lives when they’re figuring out who they are and what they want to be about. I think there’s no greater time than middle school to be able to influence students positively. It was one of the most foundational times of my life because of the adults who impacted me during those years.”

Ben is most proud of working through challenging situations over the years with students and maintaining a positive relationship with them.

“I love seeing students come out on the other side of significant challenges and mistakes to see their growth and potential,” he said.

He also prioritizes celebrating his staff.

“One of my favorite ways to show staff appreciation is through hand-delivering coffee, snacks, and drinks to staff in their classrooms or wherever they work in our building.”

Ben’s favorite way to energize himself at work is to be with the students and get into classrooms to see the great things that teachers are doing with students.

Ben enjoys spending time with his wife and kids and does his best to get outside every day. He also likes to make Texas-style barbecue and go hunting.

Principal Profiles - Douglas County School District (2024)
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